The concept of the Paladin is one that I have always liked in games. There’s always been something super cool about the knight in shining armour archetype — a holy warrior who uses the power of his faith to smite the wicked, protect the righteous, and heal the faithful.
My first contact with this archetype in MMOs was in Final Fantasy XI, where the Paladin was a tanking class with super cool-looking armour, who almost always went for the sword-and-board style of fighting. He had some healing abilities designed to keep the enemy’s attention on him, as well as abilities to protect his allies with defensive buffs.
Unfortunately, because FFXI was such a slow-paced game (especially by today’s standards) the actual class itself was simply not very fun to play.
Moving on to World of Warcraft, the Paladin there had much more flavour to it. Three distinct talent trees allowed for three very different roles in combat, especially after they finally made Protection and Retribution paladins actually worth playing.
Protection Paladins were tanks, hurling their shields at enemies to grab threat, laying down an AoE consecrated ground ability, and having abilities related to mitigating damage and holding aggro.
Retribution Paladins were holy warriors, fighting with massive two-handed weapons and laying the smite down on foes. They still had access to some of the healing and protective abilities for the class, so they tended to vary wildly in balancing power in PvP.
Finally, Holy Paladins were the healers, with considerable healing throughput on single targets, and a degree of AoE healing too. They were widely considered the best single target healers in the game for the longest time.
When I played Paladins in WoW, I was mostly a ret paladin for levelling, and a prot paladin for endgame stuff. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I like tanking. Whether I like tanking because I hate queuing for content in LFG channels or if I actually enjoy getting beaten up is a matter for debate…
RIFT did Paladin a bit differently. Paladin is one of the Warrior souls, and as such can be combined with any two other souls from the Warrior role. It has a very similar vibe to Protection Paladin from WoW, so it is definitely one of the tank souls, specialising in sword&board fighting. I actually prefer the Cleric in RIFT: it still has that holy warrior feel to it, and with the addition of its Justicar Soul it can do tanking too. (I’ve harped on about my Cleric’s versatility in a previous post, so I won’t reiterate here.)
For a long time, the Guardian was going to be my first choice class in Guild Wars 2. I love the shiny blue holy fire on their UI, their weapon choice, and the fact that they have the ability to summon Spirit Weapons to fight with them as allies. It is still in my top three classes, just edging forwards from the Mesmer (which I think I’ll struggle to play well — more on that in the Mesmer post).
The thing I find most interesting about the Guardian is that GW2 in general lacks dedicated healer or tank roles. Reconciling my idea of the Paladin with GW2′s Guardian — which it most resembles in terms of aesthetic — is quite difficult in that sense. Like all of the other professions in the game, the Guardian can provide excellent damage, support or control. A lot of the PvP videos I’ve watched show the Guardian laying down symbols on the ground to heal allies, or erecting shimmering barriers to protect themselves and their allies. I’ve also seen a couple of the later videos from GSTAR last year where there’s a more offensive Guardian using one of his sword skills to teleport short distances around the battlefield.
They do seem to be master support specialists, able to dispel or move conditions from their allies to themselves. Their ability to employ Symbols and Wards really reinforces this position as a great supporter, but they are also able to use three types of two-handed weapon for massive damage (hammer and greatsword) and control (staff).
All professions in Guild Wars 2 have a unique special set of abilities that define their profession: the Guardian has virtues. There are three of them — Courage, Justice and Resolve — and they are always up on your character. But by use of the F1-F3 keys, you can activate the virtues and spread boons to nearby allies. For example, Courage grants a passive chance to block an attack every thirty seconds. When activated as a shout, this spreads the Aegis effect to all nearby allies, allowing them to block the next attack. The Guardian loses the passive effect while the Virtue recharges. The three Virtues have independent cooldowns so you can use them when you need to without sacrificing all your passive boons.
Just like every profession in the game, Guardian seems incredibly versatile and tactical. Knowing which abilities you have equipped, in both weapon sets, and what utility and healing skills you have available to you will really set the skill ceiling high when it comes to PvP, and Guardians definitely seem like they will have a considerable number of roles and responsibilities in PvE gameplay too!